Can I Use Old Dead Limbs for Smoking?

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barbecue fire 300x225Cherry, ash, hickory, mesquite, apple, oak, peach and pecan—the list of woods you can use for smoking goes on and on. The fact that there is such a wide range of woods suitable for smoking means that, if you’re lucky, you might just have a tree on your property that will work perfectly the next time you plan on making a deliciously smoky brisket or pork butt. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to use any old wood branches you get out of your yard as it’s important to make sure the wood is in proper condition before putting it in your smoker. While there are better wood sources available, if you want to take the risk go ahead.

In this sense, you might be wondering whether those limbs you trimmed out of your apple, oak or other tree a few years ago are still suitable. To answer this question, it’s necessary to look in greater detail at the characteristics that make a piece of wood good for smoking.

Can I Use Old Wood for Smoking?

There is a high chance that you can use branches and limbs that you cut down several years ago for smoking. Seasoned wood is often perfectly fine for smoking, but it’s still essential that you first examine any pieces you’re considering using to ensure that they’re suitable.

All older, seasoned wood will eventually start to become blackened or darker on the ends due to weathering. Generally speaking, this blackened wood is still perfectly fine for smoking as long as it’s still hard and solid. Wood that is overly soft, spongy or decayed is never recommended for smoking as it tends to impart an unpleasant flavor to the meat. A few softer spots caused by ants usually aren’t much of a problem. However, if insects have attacked the wood enough to make it spongy or airy, it’s best to cut away any of these damaged areas and only use the solid, harder pieces.

You will also want to closely examine the wood for any signs of mold, mildew or fungus. These things will also give off an unpleasant aroma and thus give the meat a bad taste. That being said, if the wood has a mold or fungus growth and is otherwise solid, it can still be used as long as you pre-burn it before smoking to remove the growth.

Tips for Smoking with Seasoned Wood

If you know what type of wood it is and it meets the above criteria, that seasoned wood in your yard should be fine for smoking. However, using seasoned wood for smoking does require you to take some special steps.

Older wood is obviously much drier and thus more prone to quickly bursting in flames. This means that you’ll want to make sure to soak the wood for at least a few hours, preferable a full 24 hours. By doing so, you’ll ensure that it smokes properly without catching fire and drastically raising the heat inside your smoker.

For extremely dry pieces, you might also want to consider wrapping the wood in aluminum foil before putting it in the smoker. With this method, you’ll want to poke two or three small holes in the foil to allow the smoke to escape while still helping to prevent the piece from catching on fire.

As long as you make sure to inspect the wood and remember to soak it adequately, seasoned wood can work equally as well as any other type of wood for smoking. In this way, you can make use of those old wood limbs you have lying around to create a range of fantastic smoky treats.

Only do the above steps if you know what you’re doing. If in doubt, why take a chance? Get the best wood for smoking from the best firewood provider in the area. Come to Wisconsin Firewood and never be worried about the quality of wood needed for all your smoking needs. We deliver wood too!

Photo by Conan from Flickr using Creative Commons license.